MultiCare Gift to Help EWU Dental Hygiene Advance Periodontal Care at Nonprofit Clinic

The grant supports the clinic's work in providing high-quality services for low-income and uninsured community members while training future hygienists.

December 12, 2022

Eastern Washington University was selected to receive a $21,000 grant from MultiCare’s Community Partnership Fund in support of the EWU Dental Hygiene Department’s nonprofit clinic, a leading provider of dental care for low-income households in Spokane County.

EWU’s Dental Hygiene Clinic aligns with MultiCare’s mission of “Partnering for Healing and a Healthy Future” and the fund’s focus on building partnerships to advance initiatives, programs and projects that improve the community.

Lisa Bilich ’89, longtime professor and current co-chair of the department, attended MultiCare’s Nov. 18 banquet to honor this year’s 15 nonprofit grantees and accept the award distribution check.

Bilich says this gift will help the clinic keep costs down while supporting cutting-edge care and student training.

“I am so grateful to MultiCare for partnering with EWU Dental Hygiene to meet the dental hygiene needs of the community. With strong partners, such as MultiCare, we are able to provide high-quality dental hygiene care at a reasonable price,” Bilich says.

Dental Hygiene’s 46-chair clinic, located on the Spokane campus near downtown, is staffed by 80 students who work under licensed practitioners and provide care to around 2,000 clients a year. Now in its 50th year, the department has made a remarkable impact on community health, graduating more than 1,600 highly-trained hygienists while providing free and reduced-price dental services for 24,242 children and adults.

In addition, the clinic is the largest provider of care for Medicaid-eligible recipients in Spokane County. (To learn more about the department’s outstanding work, read A Half-Century of Smiles).

MultiCare’s generous grant will help the department with operational expenses and fund the addition of a dental hygiene diode laser to further advance periodontal therapy.

“The newest research is demonstrating that using a laser in conjunction with periodontal therapy reduces reinfection from periodontal pathogens. Our students will be able to provide cutting edge-care for some of the most vulnerable population,” says Bilich, who expects the laser to arrive this spring. “Not only does this ensure our students are able to practice using equipment they’ll find in the workplace, it also brings equity to our clients.”

As students at the EWU Dental Hygiene Clinic develop skills that better prepare them to work in hospitals, dental clinics and other settings, the preventative and restorative care they provide helps to build a healthier community by reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other chronic and catastrophic health problems linked to oral decay.

In this effort, the Dental Hygiene Department is a partner in the Oral Health Connections Pilot Project, a state directed project to test the effect that enhanced oral health services have on the overall health of diabetic or pregnant Medicaid clients, age 21 to 64.

The goal of the pilot project is to gain additional information on whether or not enhanced periodontal care, in these populations, can lead to improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.

The clinic also partners with Smile Spokane and its oral public health outreach programs to provide education and screenings to those most in need — including the homeless, veterans, pregnant women and low-income senior citizens.

To support student scholarships and access to quality dental health care for less advantaged members of the greater Spokane Community, please click on this link.